Unlike the popular film ratio, funerals definitely outweigh weddings in our experience here. Very very few people get “ringed” in the church or make any sort of formal public commitment to their partner, opting instead for tenuous relationships, minimal down payments on bride prices, the ever-present threat of breaking up. Children belong to the father; the mother is a temporary necessity for creating more descendants. Sigh. But one of our sort-of sons, a former student whom we took on as an orphan to sponsor, seems to be taking the bold step of courting a potential wife without living with her until they settle the negotiations with her father and have a ceremony in a church. If this happens, it would be only the second person I know in Bundibugyo who has done this. So stay tuned. I’m finding that our absence during the last three weeks has left lots of loose ends with our students, one of the major down sides of being away, so that several have been eagerly waiting to talk to us about their issues (including financial problems, being in love, and anxiety about sickness). I also find myself short and impatient with these boys, even though I love them. Part of the stress of transitioning back and forth.
The funeral of the day was a festive affair celebrating the life of a 70 year old lady, the wife of a well respected Church of Uganda pastor, who had been married to him for 51 years. Amazing anywhere, particularly here (see above!). We sponsored her daughter Alice, who is my age, in school for nursing and midwifery, about five years ago. I think we came back from our MPH as “mature” students ready to pass the favor on to another . . . And Alice, with grown children and about 40, started school only to find herself pregnant. She has a lovely healthy 5 year old boy now, finished school successfully, and works at Nyahuka faithfully. So when I heard her mother had died I wanted to show my respect and support by attending the burial. I’ve been to many here, but probably never one quite like this. For one, no one was wailing. The choirs were positively exuberant. I’m sure her husband, children, and grandchildren were saddened, but the tone was definitely one of celebrating her life. I arrived during the sermon which was based on the theme of building on the Rock of Jesus Christ instead of the sand. The preacher was passionate! And unlike the last funeral I attended, when he called for conversions at the end, about ten people raised their hands and prayed line by line a prayer of belief. A snazzy harmonizing men’s choral and drum group challenged the crowd to BE PREPARED, death can come any time. I kept getting moved progressively closer to the front of the ceremony which made it a little tricky to slip out at the end of two hours because I had to be home for the kids’ return from school. But I did. On the way back I reflected that not everyone can attend a funeral and get a spectacular rough mountain-bike worthy ride in one shot, and most people don’t look back on the day and count a funeral as the highlight, but it truly was a refreshing look at a life well lived in family and community.